Category Archives: Tequila

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Tequila Regional Blanco

tequila regional 199x300 Review: Tequila Regional BlancoTequila Regional (“Ray-he-o-nahl”) is the product of a sort of agave collective of farmers in Mexico; 36 farms from 7 counties are represented. This is a rare 100% agave tequila that’s sourced from both highlands and lowlands agave, then blended into the final bottling.

Blanco, reposado, and anejo bottlings are on the market. We sampled only the blanco.

Racy on the nose, but not overwhelming. Notes of sausages on the grill, mustard, charcoal and smoke. On the palate, it’s more of same, a very rich and savory tequila with an unusual level of smokiness. Sweetness is an afterthought, but it’s there. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a milder mezcal, though there’s not so much savoriness that non-mezcal fans will mind.

Overall it’s a journeyman tequila that doesn’t really distinguish itself, though it’s certainly drinkable, particularly at this price.

B- / $20 / regionaltequila.com

Re-Review: Olmeca Altos Plata and Reposado Tequila

We last encountered Olmeca Altos in our preview of its silver tequila in 2010, but this Euro-focused brand has only now finally started its expansion into the States. We took a fresh look at both the Plata and the Reposado (there’s no Anejo yet). Both have refreshed packaging but the agave and methodology (read about it here) to make the stuff haven’t changed. Fresh thoughts on the silver and new thoughts on the reposado follow. Both are 80 proof.

(Don’t confuse Olmeca Altos, a 100% agave tequila, with Olmeca, a mixto, which is made by the same company.)

Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila – Unaged, fresh blanco. I’m picking up more banana on the nose this time out, with an agave kicker and a little white pepper. Similar notes on the body: Very fruity, with fresh fruit. Creamy, like a smoothie, with plenty of citrus. Not much of an agave kicker, which makes it dangerously easy to sip on. A- / $25 (prior rating B+)

Olmeca Altos Reposado Tequila – Aged 6 to 8 months in ex-Bourbon barrels. Modest amber color. More agave on the nose here. Some citrus, too. Lots and lots of vanilla on the body, with a big and creamy finish that comes across a bit like a cream soda float with vanilla ice cream. Delightful and light — this is actually pretty much exactly what I thought the Plata would taste like as a Reposado. A- / $25

olmecatequila.com

Review: Tapatio Tequila Blanco

Tequila Tapatio 93x300 Review: Tapatio Tequila BlancoTequila Tapatio (no relation to the hot sauce) has a cult-like following in Mexico (and among frequent visitors to those parts), and now it’s coming north of the border. Made from 100% Highlands blue agave, this brand has been around for 75 years.

Imported by the Charbay family, it is (at least for now) only available in one-liter bottles. An anejo and reposado are available; we just got the blanco (aged 6 months in stainless steel; no oak). Here’s how it goes down.

Modest agave, and black pepper, on the nose. Hints of earthiness, but overall very mild.

The body is initially hot, but it settles down with some time in the glass. Nice balance on agave, lemon, sweetness, and chile powder. Touches of black pepper hit the back of the throat for the finish. Simple and easy to drink, it’d be a great mixer and works just fine on its own, too. Maybe I’m missing what all the fuss is about, though…

80 proof.

B+ / $43 per one-liter bottle / charbay.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Peligroso Tequila Anejo

peligroso anejo 139x300 Review: Peligroso Tequila AnejoPeligroso Reposado has been as close as there is to a “house” reposado at Drinkhacker HQ for some time, and I’ve been bugging Peligroso to send the Anejo expression, figuring if the reposado was this good, the anejo had to be even better.

Peligroso Anejo is made from 100% Highlands agave and aged 12 to 18 months in ex-Tennessee whiskey barrels. It is bottled in an opaque, black bottle — I presumed to amp up the “dangerous” mystique of this slightly overproof (84 proof) tequila — but after pouring, the real reason becomes a bit more evident. In the glass, this is the lightest-color anejo I’ve ever seen. Comparing it next to Peligroso Reposado (which is light to begin with), it’s hard to tell a difference.

Continue reading

Review: Sparkle Donkey Tequila

Sparkle Donkey tequila 300x300 Review: Sparkle Donkey TequilaIt’s one of the most fanciful product names we’ve encountered in a while, but once of the most apt, too: Sparkle Donkey Tequila features an armor-clad donkey on its label. “El Burro Esparkalo.”

Brought to us by the makers of Bakon Vodka, Sparkle Donkey is a 100% agave tequila with a legit heritage — extra-long fermentation, volcanic water used for blending, and so on. Here’s how the two initial expressions stack up. Both are 80 proof. Continue reading

Review: Casa Sauza XA Extra Anejo Edicion Limitada

casa sauza xa tequila 239x300 Review: Casa Sauza XA Extra Anejo Edicion LimitadaSauza may be best known for making inexpensive yet perfectly drinkable 100% agave tequila, but now it’s raising the bar with an extra anejo called Casa Sauza XA.

This fancy-pants bottling is indeed extra-old, 100% aged three years in a combination of new and used American oak barrels. The bottle is something like I’ve never seen, featuring a cork closure that is strapped down by a leather belt and buckle. (Cute, but inconvenient.)

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Review: El Cartel Tequila

El Cartel tequila 199x300 Review: El Cartel TequilaThis new brand, the brainchild of Mike Hamod, was created to be “the Ciroc of tequila” as its goal — courtesy of celebrity sponsorship that includes Daddy Yankee, Jermaine Dupri, and Eddie Griffin. Made of 100% agave in the Highlands of Jalisco, it is initially available in two varieties, a silver expression and (wait for it) a silver tequila infused with gold flakes.

Thoughts follow. Both are 80 proof.

Continue reading

Review: El Buho Mezcal

Made in Oaxaca, this mezcal is made from espadin agave plants and roasted with mesquite for a full week in a fire pit before being crushed (by a burro!) and pressed for the juice. The fermented mash is twice distilled in an alembic pot still before bottling, unaged.

The smoky nose reveals little about what’s underneath, but the first sip starts off with a surprisingly high amount of sweetness on the tongue. Very fruity, it offers mainly tropical notes — papaya and a bit of pineapple, backed with touches of lemon. The smoke returns for the finish, as is typical of mezcal, a bit sticky sweet, perhaps due to that mesquite coming through.

I like El Buho’s components a lot, but as is often the case with smoky spirits, the balance is a bit off here, with sugar and fire not quite coming together into the burnt/caramelized sugar character that you want to take away from the experience.

Nice as a starter mezcal.

86 proof.

B+ / $47 / elbuhomezcal.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

El Buho Mezcal Review: El Buho Mezcal

Recipe: Gangnam Style Pony-rita

If Avion hadn’t come up with this recipe, I would’ve had to.

Gangnam Style Pony rita 225x300 Recipe: Gangnam Style Pony ritaGangnam Style Pony-rita
Inspired by the bright, sassy suits and dance moves

2 ½ parts Tequila Avión Silver
½ part fresh lime juice
Sugar for rim
Lime slice garnish

Fill blender with ice and wet ingredients. Blend until frozen. Rub the rim of a margarita glass with a lime slice so that the sugar will stick, then rim the glass with sugar and add blended ingredients. Garnish with a lime slice.

Review: Campo Azul Tequila

Campo Azul is a 100% blue agave from the Jalisco Highlands, most notable for the hologram that wraps around the neck of the bottle. We sampled both the blanco and extra anejo expressions of the spirit (sorry, reposado!) — two tequilas as wildly different in quality as they get. Both varieties are 80 proof.

Campo Azul Blanco Tequila – This unaged expression is clean, with a moderate agave backbone and a bit of an earthy character to, somewhat uncommon in blanco tequila. Very smooth, with no burn at all, light lemon notes, and light notes of fresh evergreen needles. Refreshing, and very affordable for 100% agave. A- / $23

Campo Azul Extra Anejo Tequila – Aged 18 months in oak, you’d think a sugar bomb was in store for you, but you’d be wrong. Instead, here the piney character goes overboard, with a finish that exudes Pine-Sol so heavily I was instantly transported to a Las Vegas bathroom. There are touches of vanilla on the finish, but nothing can stand up to that gin-like evergreen character. D+ / $27

tequilacampoazul.com

Fall Tequila Cocktails

Cocktail recipes for fall courtesy Hornitos and Sauza. This first one had me at the chocolate bitters.

El Catrin 2 300x300 Fall Tequila CocktailsEl Catrin
Created by Steven Calabro, Head Mixologist, Red O, BartendingBootcamp.com, Los Angeles, CA

2 parts Hornitos Anejo Tequila
2 dashes Mexican Chocolate Bitters
1 part Sweet Vermouth
1/4 part fresh orange

Stirred and served up in Martini glass. Garnished with burnt orange peel disc flamed at presentation.

Pumpkin Spice  300x220 Fall Tequila CocktailsPumpkin Spice Tequila Margarita
Serves 2

1/4 cup Sauza Blue Silver Tequila
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee
Whipped Cream

In a saucepan, combine cream with pumpkin syrup, sugar, vanilla and spice. Brew your coffee and divide it between two mugs. To each mug add half of the Sauza Blue Tequila and the cream mixture and stir. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Tequila Revolucion Serves Up Drinks with Dinner

The closest I typically get to drinking a tequila cocktail with dinner is the occasional margarita with Mexican food, but the good folks at Tequila Revolucion set out to prove that tequila is more versatile than just that.

Revolucion PR rep Tim Yates and brand ambassador Summer-Jane Bell hosted a group of us to a lavish dinner at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor recently, where the meal was paired with four different cocktails made with the stuff, plus all the straight spirits — Revolucion has five expressions — you cared to sample.

My favorite of the night (and arguably the house fave, too): aged prime rib with porcinis, spring onions, and smoked potato, paired with a brooding cocktail (nameless) made from Revolucion Anejo, sherry, King’s Ginger liqueur, and amaro. I was also quite partial to the cocktail paired with a vegetable/fruit concoction called “Introduction to Summer,” made from Revolucion Reposado, Konbu infused dry vermouth, nettle cordial (house made by mixologist Brian Means), lemon, and elderflower. Loved drinking the Extra Anejo with dessert, too.

Lots of good stuff, and I’d undoubtedly consider serving a light tequila cocktail with a first course in lieu of white wine or Champagne. But, that said, as with all spirits-focused dinners, one does long for a glass of smoldering red wine with a big dinner like this by the time the second or third hour rolls along!

Thanks to everyone at Revolucion for hosting such a fun event.

tequila revolucion Tequila Revolucion Serves Up Drinks with Dinner

Review: Zignum Reposado Mezcal

A new product from Casa Armando Guillermo Prieto, Zignum Mezcal is made from green Espadin agave. Silver and reposado expressions are currently hitting the market. An anejo will arrive later this year.

We sampled the reposado, aged more than two months in oak barrels. Very lively and fresh, the medium gold color looks too good to be true for a mezcal with just a couple months of age on it. The nose offers marshmallow, cedar planks, and burnt coal embers — just a hint that this is smoky mezcal and not tequila. On the tongue, more of the same: Bracing sweetness, balanced with more smokiness than you get in the nose.

Creamy and rich, this is a lush mezcal that counters the many thin and limp agave products on the market. With good balance and a long, pleasing finish, it’s quite a winner. Great value, too. Looking forward to checking out the anejo down the line.

80 proof. Kosher.

A- / $30 / casaagp.com.mx

Zignum Reposado Mezcal Review: Zignum Reposado Mezcal

Review: Mezcals of Agave de Cortes

It’s not every day you meet a 6th generation palenquero (mezcal maker), but that’s exactly what Asis Cortes, pictured below in my kitchen, is. Cortes and his family make mezcal in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Some of it is only available in the country, and in addition to its own the company also exports a variety of other producers’ mescals to the U.S.

Cortes walked me through four of his company’s products, each representing a fairly different style and approach to the spirit. Thoughts follow.

Sacacuento Silver Mezcal – One of Cortes’s import products, a light, fresh, and fruity mezcal loaded with lemon and citrus notes. The smoke is subtle and delicate on the finish. Arguably my favorite of the tasting. Made from agave espadin. 80 proof. A- / $43

El Jolgorio Silver Mezcal – Made in tiny batches and released 600 liters at a time, this mezcal is available only in Mexico, where it is one of the company’s rarest offerings. Made from white madrecuixe agave grown in the mountains of Oaxaca, this organic mezcal is as different as you can imagine from the Sacacuento. A huge flavor bomb, this is a gut punch, full of aloe, lime, sugar cane, and incense character. Again, not much smokiness, but there’s no delicacy here, just raw intensity and a wild expression of agave. 92 proof. A- / 900 Mexican pesos

Sacacuento Anejo Mezcal – Age Sacacuento Silver in American oak barrels for a year and you get this light brown spirit, intense with earth and menthol characters. There’s old wood on the nose, almost funky in the way it comes across. But the body is something else entirely, smooth cocoa, butterscotch, and caramel notes, all quite lasting. Quite a dichotomy between nose and palate. It opens up over time, much like a good anejo tequila. 80 proof. B+ / $70

Agave de Cortes Extra Anejo Mezcal – Aged three years in French oak barrels, this espadin agave offers a beautiful nose of old rum and a fair bit of wood. There’s a surprisingly lightness on the palate, fresh and young with herbal characteristics, with the agave remarkably still coming through after all that time in oak. What’s left behind is caramel and orange peel. 80 proof. B+ / $120

Review: Tequila Revolucion Silver

I don’t know if the revolucion will be televised, but it does seem to be arriving by way of Mexico.

Tequila Revolucion is a lowlands tequila from the El Arenal region of Jalisco. 100% agave, naturally, and bottled at 80 proof. While a full range of expressions is available, we sampled only the silver.

Revolucion has a very strong agave nose, and I was set up for an agave bomb in the palate department. Not the case. On the tongue, that agave melts into a tequila with creamy vanilla and creme brulee character. There’s herbal and fresh flower notes in the mid-palate, along with white pepper. Some lemon on the tongue, too, and a long finish that recalls agave, cinnamon, and more pepper.

As with many tequilas, Revolucion opens up as you let it aerate, which help some of its deeper nuances reveal themselves.

A- / $37 / tequilarevolucion.com

tequila revolucion silver Review: Tequila Revolucion Silver

Review: Z Tequila

The brainchild of Pepe Zevada, a spirits industry veteran, Z Tequila is a fairly new brand of 100% agave tequilas based on Zevada’s own recipes. These tequilas use seven-to-nine year old agave plants and age the reposado and anejo in new Canadian oak barrels.

We tasted each of the three expressions extensively. All are 80 proof. Universally we had trouble with the closures: Some wouldn’t seal tightly after opening, some wouldn’t pour well. The photo below doesn’t lie, either: The bottles are simply terribly ugly. Never mind all that though, it’s what’s inside that counts. Thoughts follow.

Also known as “Pepe Z Tequila.”

Z Blanco Tequila – An unaged silver tequila, this is a really beautiful spirit. Lovely caramel notes (always surprising in an unaged tequila), matched with touches of lemon, lightly smoked wood, leather, and of course a moderate slug of agave. Amazing balance, with modest sweetness to counter the agave’s vegetal notes. Absolutely solid. A / $30

Z Reposado Tequila – Aged nine months, this pale yellow reposado offers a very similar profile to the blanco. A touch more edge, a touch more creaminess in the body. Vanilla, again, is the primary character, and it comes together in wonderful harmony with the agave. The finish is more on the chocolate front, really lush and smolderingly sweet. Like the blanco, this is simply a beautiful tequila — but it’s bigger body and slightly bolder flavor push it just that much higher. Remarkable value, too. A+ / $33

Z Anejo Tequila – After 21 months in oak, Z’s anejo is a bit overcooked. The sweet dessert flavors of vanilla and chocolate have disappeared into a surplus of raw wood and smoke — and result in a surprisingly hotter tequila with considerably more bite. In a vacuum, this wouldn’t be a bad tequila by any definition — the whiskey-like finish is particularly appealing — but compared to the masterful blanco and reposado it just isn’t in the same league. B+ / $35

pepeztequila.com

z tequila Review: Z Tequila

Re-Review 2012: Herradura Tequila

This is my second full review of the Herradura line and my third of the blanco. My last review was 3 1/2 years ago, so another spin around the block certainly felt warranted.

Why re-review anything? Because, after all, no spirit is made in a vacuum. (Well, OK, some spirits are made in vacuums, but that makes for a less exciting metaphor.) Harvests are variable, staff undergo changes, recipes are altered. For better or worse, here’s how Herradura comes across in 2012.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Herradura Silver - (third sample, original report here) – As blancos go, this silver tastes quite mild to me now. Have I become accustomed to or my tastebuds dulled by over-agaved tequilas? Nice sweetness, with natural vanilla character to offset a mild agave backbone. Big, buttery body. A touch of coffee bean on the back end. Very, very drinkable and a bit dangerous because of it. A- / $33

Herradura Reposado – Aged 11 months. Vanilla is pumped up, but oddly so is the agave. While the blanco has a nice balance to it, the reposado is off. The vanilla comes on too strong, with a butterscotch character that doesn’t play as well with the agave as it should. B / $34

Herradura Anejo – 25-plus months in oak. And somehow the anejo pulls it all back together. In balance, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, big ripe banana character, and a little agave at the back. Silky and rich, a banana cream pie from south of the border. A- / $43

herradura.com

herradura Re Review 2012: Herradura Tequila

Review: Milagro Tequila UNICO

Aiming to “redefine” the tequila world, Milagro is releasing a new joven tequila with an outrageous price tag. Just 1,200 bottles of UNICO have been made, starting with a “kitchen-distilled” base of white spirit produced with 13 kilos of agave per liter. This base is blended with aged stock (the details of which aren’t released), rested for 30 days, then filtered and oxygenated back to clear. (This, of course, isn’t a mixto-type joven — the other usage of that term — but rather a clarified mix of young and aged 100% agave tequila.)

Results: Curious. The color is not clear but rather a very, very pale yellow. The nose is intensely vegetal, with cooked mash, fuel, and astringent elements. On the palate, much more intrigue than the nose would indicate: Notes of sweet caramel, cooked vegetables, raw agave, licorice, and charcoal. Unusual to the point of oddity, this tequila is hardly the smooth blanco you might expect for 300 bones, but rather a complex monster of a spirit that is one of the most challenging I’ve encountered recently. Sadly, no matter what you think about the approach, the balance is lacking among these various flavors, and UNICO isn’t so much a cohesive tequila but rather a bit of a muddy encounter.

80 proof.

B / $300 / milagrotequila.com

milagro unico tequila Review: Milagro Tequila UNICO

Review: Malibu Red

On paper, Malibu Red is a terrible, terrible idea: Take standard Malibu (coconut-flavored rum), and add white tequila to it.

The brainchild of R&B artist Ne-Yo, I am here to tell you that, yes, Malibu Red is as bad as you think it will be.

Fundamentally these are two great tastes… that just don’t go together: Super-sweet coconut rum on the nose, muddled with sharp agave-heavy tequila. Like putting orange juice on your cereal, these flavors collide in an often angry, unsatisfying fashion, and it’s difficult to get a real handle on either one. The finish is cloying and muddy, leaving you desperate for one side to take hold. Neither does, and your mouth ends up coated in a syrupy, tangy, almost medicinal film.

70 proof.

D+ / $25 / malibu-rum.com

malibu red Review: Malibu Red